Clean Air Council and Environmental Integrity Project File a Second Notice of Intent to Sue Plant for Smog-Forming Emissions
Pittsburgh, PA — A pair of environmental organizations today sent a letter to Pennsylvania urging the state to temporarily halt operations at a Shell plastics chemical plant northwest of Pittsburgh that has repeatedly violated air pollution limits and recently released plumes of black smoke for several hours.
Clean Air Council and the Environmental Integrity Project asked the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to temporarily halt operations of the Shell Polymers Monaca plant in Beaver County until the company can demonstrate it can operate in compliance with pollution control laws.
The two groups also today filed a notice of intent to sue Shell for violating the chemical plant’s 12-month permit limit on nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to asthma attacks, lung disease, and (in the environment) smog and acid rain. This is the second notice from the groups in three weeks: On February 2, the organizations sent a notice to Shell for other violations of the plant’s air permit, including a 12-month limit on volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which also contribute to smog and health problems, and a prohibition on certain “visible emissions,” including black smoke from flares.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, plaintiffs must send notices of intent to sue at least 60 days before filing a complaint in federal court.
“DEP must act quickly to stop Shell’s ongoing violations of pollution limits that are meant to protect public health” said Sarah Kula, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “Since the plant has come online, Shell has struggled to meet its permit limits, and DEP needs to order a pause to operations until Shell can comply with the law.”
“We will continue to hold Shell accountable as long as they continue to violate the law,” said Joseph Minott, Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel. “The health and environmental risks that come with pollution exceedances can harm communities and the region for generations to come. DEP must put the plant on hold until Shell can get its act together.”
On Monday, the Shell plant’s flare released large amounts of black smoke over the course of several hours. BreatheCam.org footage of the February 13th event can be found here. Plants often use these flaring events to burn off chemicals rather than vent directly into the atmosphere, but Shell’s permit does not allow the kind of visible emissions that occurred on Monday. When a flare is not operating properly, it can release dangerous air pollution, including fine particulate matter, benzene, hexane, formaldehyde, mercury, arsenic, and other organic hazardous air pollutants.
In 2022, Shell emitted 346 tons of NOx, which exceeded its permitted annual NOx emissions (328.8 tons of NOx in a 12-month period). From August to December 2022 alone, the plant emitted 310 tons of NOx – nearly reaching the 12-month limit during this five month period.
Clean Air Council is a member-supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone’s right to a healthy environment. The Council has offices in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Wilmington, and works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit www.cleanair.org
The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, based in Washington, D.C., and Austin, TX, that is dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policies to protect public health and the environment. For more information, please visit www.environmentalintegrity.org.